A MURDER probe is under way today after a well-known North East street trader was killed at his home.
The body of John Roberts was found at his home in Winlaton, Gateshead, shortly after 6pm on Sunday, just days after he appeared in court accused of abducting a teenager.
A post-mortem revealed the father-of-one, known widely as “John the Badge”, died of head injures at his home in Park Terrace. Detectives are today trying to piece together Mr Roberts’ final moments.
The 32-year-old could regularly be seen selling pin badges and other memorabilia near St James’ Park on match days. On Sunday night his body was found by passing police officers who went to investigate after noticing the door at his home in Winlaton, Gateshead, was open.
Shocked neighbours have paid tribute to the father-of-one as a police cordon was erected around the murder scene.
Sandra Conway, who has lived in the street for 10 years, said it was a sad time.
“My daughter rang me at work, she works at the shop and he used to go there a lot, they knew him well,” said the 48-year-old. “It was really shocking.”
Christine Adamson, who has lived in the street for nine years with husband John, said: “It’s a sad end for him and I am sorry it’s turned out that way. It’s a quiet neighbourhood, I don’t know what happened.”
The 64-year-old retired teaching assistant added: “We are both in shock, he was always walking up and down the road but he never bothered anyone.” Mr Roberts was last seen alive last Thursday when he appeared at Newcastle Crown Court charged with child abduction.
It is understood he was arrested in September after taking a 14-year-old girl, who had said she planned to run away from home, to London to show her what it was like to be homeless.
Det Chief Insp Christina Barrett, of Northumbria Police’s Major Crime Team, is now appealing for help to piece together Mr Roberts’ last movements.
She said: “We are keen to speak to anyone who may have see Mr Roberts or spoken to him since Thursday, or anyone with any information that could help us track his movements since he was last seen. He is well known in the local area and quite distinctive looking due to his long hair and long beard.”
Anyone with information should contact police on 101, ext 69191.